Making Sure Your Fire Alarm Works

Fire Strobe-Alfonso PierantonioFire is an unpredictable force that can wreak havoc on any business. It is imperative as a business owner, facility manager, or building owner that the proper precautions are in place to help prevent catastrophe. The NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) is a leading advocate in fire prevention and safety. They’ve written numerous codes and standards that have been implemented nationwide. These standards are designed to help reduce the risk and effects of fire. In combination with local regulations, NFPA codes and regulations are what system integrators and contractors have to follow in order to pass inspection from local authorities.

While you no doubt have some sort of fire detection and/or suppression system in operation it’s important to maintain it in accordance with national and local requirements. As a security systems integrator, our team at Perfect Connections, Inc. has been installing fire alarm systems in business facilities throughout northern and central New Jersey for that past 23 years. We specialize in comprehensive security systems that include fire alarms as a major component to a fully functioning system. We do offer maintenance and service contracts helping you preserve a system that will continue to pass annual inspections and work efficiently in the event of a fire.

What goes into fire alarm maintenance? First off, unless you or your staff is trained and licensed, you must hire a licensed technician. This will help avoid accidentally setting off any false alarms which can result in substantial fines. A common starting point, whether the system is fairly new or if you moved into a space with an existing system, is to find out the systems age and maintenance history. The age of a fire alarm system will help determine whether or not components need to be replaced and what type of maintenance might be required.

According to Mike Lohr, director of service marketing for SimplexGrinnell LP, “Systems between five and ten years old may experience component breakdown caused by harsh, but normal, environmental factors. Voltage fluctuations, temperature, and humidity may cause system failure or nuisance alarm problems.” He notes that systems between 5-10 and 10-15 years can provide adequate “life-safety” responses, but those within the 10-15 year marks should be watched carefully. This is even more important if you have a shoddy record of maintenance history as it could have been poorly taken care of in the past.

Aside from knowing the age of your system you have to take any specific regulations the local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) might have into consideration. While the NFPA provides codes and standards for the nation, the AHJ will likely have their own set of rules that are specific to the area they preside. This means that even if your system meets NFPA standards it may not pass local inspection because of AHJ specifications. For this reason it is imperative to hire experts that are licensed and educated not only in maintenance specific to your system, but national and local requirements as well.

In most cases fire alarm systems must be inspected at least once a year some may require a more frequent assessment. It really all depends on the type of business. During an inspection all components of the system will be tested so if something is not functioning properly, it will likely be taken care of at that time. Before an inspection you should notify the building occupants as the alarms will be tested and it gets noisy. Your alarm system company is the one who should contact the alarm monitoring station and local authorities in advance to avoid false emergencies.

Maintaining a functional fire alarm system is key to preventing potential catastrophe. It helps protect not only the physicality of your business, but everything that goes into running your business, i.e. you, your employees, company records, and equipment. If you ever consider cutting corners when it comes to fire alarm maintenance carefully consider the extent of what it might cost you if you do.

While as a business owner you may not need to know all the fine details of what goes into fire alarm maintenance, it is important to have a basic understanding of what you can expect when the time comes. For further information on fire alarm maintenance and inspections check out our related blog post HERE. If you run a business in northern or central New Jersey do not hesitate to call on our licensed technicians at Perfect Connections, Inc.. We have been providing comprehensive security system solutions including fire alarm installation and maintenance since 1992.

If you live or run a business in Central or Northern New Jersey and would like information on any of the topics discussed above, please call 800-369-3962 or simply CLICK HERE.

Image Credit: Image by Alfonso Pierantonio-Flickr-Creative Commons

Investing In Safety

Burglar-JohnImplementing a home security system can seem like a daunting task, but it’s an investment you won’t regret. People typically visualize the home break-in scenario where the masked intruder breaks a window setting off an alarm, ultimately sending the perpetrator on the run. A home security system is so much more than a triggered alarm, it’s a potential life saver in a variety of situations. We all like to imagine our homes are impervious fortresses of safety, but the reality is there are too many uncontrollable factors that could affect our daily lives. Home security allows you to be more prepared for those unpredictable situations.

Our licensed integrators at Perfect Connections, Inc. design and install comprehensive home security systems. We have been providing custom security solutions to residents in northern and central New Jersey for the past 25 years. Our systems protect people and property, offering a peace of mind that can’t be obtained from anything else. It is our belief that a comprehensive home security system should include a burglar alarm, video surveillance, home automation, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and a monitoring service.

Burglar alarms are likely the first thing that come to mind when thinking about home security. This is because they are a vital system component that helps keep you and your family safe from intruders. Not only do burglar alarms alert you and your monitoring station of a potential disturbance, they can deter would be thieves from even attempting a break-in or burglary. In a study by the Alarm Industry Research and Education Foundation (AIREF) 422 convicted burglars were asked about their decisions to burglarize. They found that approximately 60% would not make an attempt on a home or commercial property that they knew had and alarm system.

Having a surveillance system is an essential component of a comprehensive home security system. Cameras keep eyes on your property even while you can’t. The recordings can also help during an investigation after the fact if necessary. In the burglar study conducted by AIREF approximately 60% said cameras would be factor in their target selection with more than 40% reporting they would choose an alternative if cameras were present. Aside from being a deterrent and a forensics tool, home surveillance systems can often be remotely accessed via an app on your mobile device. This would allow you to check-in on specific parts of your home, see that your pets are okay during the day, or check-in on a loved one.

Remote access to your home security system is part of the abilities you are afforded when you have home automation. With home automation you can setup customized alerts so you receive notifications to your mobile device when your children arrive home from school, when an alarm is triggered, you receive a package, or there is a drastic temperature change in your home. Having remote access to your system helps you control certain parts of you home as well. Maybe you go on vacation and you forget to close your garage doors, if you have home automation it’s not a problem, you simply login to the app on your mobile device and close the doors. Depending on your system configuration you can arm or disarm your system, lock or unlock doors, control the temperature, turn lights on and off, and sometimes control appliances. Home automation offers convenience and connectivity you can’t get from anything else.

Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are two of the most important life safety devices every home should have. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that every year more than 400 Americans die from carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning unrelated to fires. Carbon monoxide is a “silent killer” that is colorless and odorless, that is why it is so important to have working detectors in the home. Based on past data, in 2014, The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) found that three out of five home fire deaths were caused by fires in homes that didn’t have working smoke alarms.

Statistics alone should be enough to convince any home owner to invest in these life saving devices. What makes them even more effective is if they are tied into your security system. That way when they go off or CO levels rise the central monitoring station will be alerted and if necessary they can send help right away. In situations where you might not be home or a loved one is home alone, it’s nice to know someone is still vigilant.

Monitoring services are the catalyst in security systems that initiate emergency responses. They are a key component that shouldn’t be passed up because of cost. You can’t put a cost on the lives of the ones you love or yourself for that matter. What good is an alarm if no one is alerted when it goes off? It might scare off an intruder, but do you really want to take that chance? During a fire or unpredictable disaster you want the fastest response you can get, right? That is where having a monitoring service proves its worth. It provides quick response times even when you are not home or incapable of responding.

Whether you’re new to the world of home security systems or have been considering one for a long time, it’s always a worthy investment. A comprehensive system will help protect not only your property but your life and the lives of your loved ones. Our team of licensed integrators at Perfect Connections, Inc. has been providing comprehensive security solutions to homes throughout northern and central New Jersey since 1992. We realize no two homes are identical and each one has individual security risks and concerns, which is why we custom design our systems to fit your needs.

If you live or run a business in Central or Northern New Jersey and would like information on any of the topics discussed above, please call 800-369-3962 or simply CLICK HERE.

Image Credit: Image by John-Flickr-Creative Commons

Hybrid Surveillance

Mike Mozart-surveillanceAs a business owner protecting your facility is always a top concern. Are you getting the coverage you need? If you have a comprehensive security system you’re already in a good position. However, a security system is only as good as the sum of its parts. One of the most crucial parts of a security system is the surveillance aspect. Surveillance systems are the eyes that keep watch over your business even when you can’t.

Like any other technology surveillance equipment is constantly evolving through research and development that is meant to improve its efficiency. In today’s IoT (Internet of Things) IP-based (Internet Protocol) systems are a driving force that is changing the role of surveillance in comprehensive security. But not everyone is so keen on the uptake. Prior to the inception of IP cameras and network devices the world was and has been dominated by analog cameras and DVR devices (Digital Video Recording). If you have existing surveillance equipment, chances are it’s a legacy analog system.

While the IP surveillance trend is picking up, there are still more than 40 million analog cameras in operation around the world today. Making the switch from analog to IP isn’t an easy transition for everyone and integrators have become increasingly aware. Fortunately there are hybrid solutions that allow you to work with your existing analog infrastructure and start your migration to an IP-based system. At Perfect Connections, Inc. our team of licensed integrators work with you to provide comprehensive security solutions that meet your needs. Our experts have been providing comprehensive security system solutions, including surveillance, to businesses throughout northern and central New Jersey for that past 23 years. We recognize the value technology adds to the security systems we install and how they can benefit our customers.

Why replace an analog system? To be fair, analog systems have filled a security need since the beginning of surveillance that would have otherwise gone unfulfilled. But just like any technology, progress is always pushing the envelope of what is relevant and effective. Look at smartphones, they are constantly evolving, every year a new model with new features that jettisons society forward. While businesses aren’t necessarily turning over their surveillance systems at the same rate, the growing trend is leaning towards IP and network based solutions.

Hybrid solutions for companies that aren’t ready to make the full switch to IP just yet offer the benefits of a more effective system that will ease the transition when the time is right. According to Mark Collett, general manager of Sony Security Systems Division, “With hybrid solutions, you can get the best of both worlds—the near-zero latency of analog plus IP’s HD imaging quality.”

Video encoders are the catalyst for the hybrid solution, replacing out of date and expensive DVRs. DVRs were traditionally responsible for storing and recording footage captured by connected surveillance cameras. According to James Marcella, a technologist in the security and IT industries, a video encoder is, “an open-platform technology that acts as a bridge between the analog and digital world by essentially turning an analog investment into IP cameras.” Video encoders would allow you to make use of existing infrastructure by attaching to the coaxial cable from you analog system, transforming the analog signal into a digital stream.

Many industry experts consider DVRs to be one of the most expensive pieces of equipment the consumer will purchase, and they are typically outlived by the analog cameras. Also, they are not dependable, if they go down so does the whole surveillance system, and this could happen at a critical moment. Video encoders are capable of running on power over Ethernet that can be tied to a backup power supply, keeping you covered no matter what. You can also employ redundancies like NAS devices (Network Attached Storage) and SD memory cards to help prevent recording loss.

DVRs lack the image resolution, edge intelligence, and network capabilities that a video encoder can offer. The frames per second rate (fps) is what creates a smoother clearer image, the higher the better especially in high motion scenarios. Video encoders are capable of capturing images at up to 60fps whereas DVRs only go up to 15fps. DVR intelligence is typically limited to whatever the manufacturer specifications have been set to. Video encoders open the door to third party intelligent applications which allow you to choose video management software from virtually any provider in the connected world. This creates a platform for advanced video analytics.

There is a large storage and scalability disparity between DVRs and video encoders. DVRs typically have a low tolerance for the quantity of cameras they can accommodate which can leave a business vulnerable by not being able to cover risky areas. On the other hand video encoders offer virtually limitless retention by being highly scalable. Video encoders have the ability to accommodate single cameras and there are some units that can accommodate up to 84 cameras making them a highly flexible and effective solution for a large or small facility.

The hybrid solution allows you to keep existing analog cameras and infrastructure and as the cameras die or warrant replacement, they can easily be swapped out for IP creating a smoother transition. Remote monitoring is another benefit to opting for a hybrid solution. This adds a level of security you can’t obtain from an analog system, being able to login to your surveillance system to see what is going on at your facility when you can’t be there.

Hybrid solutions are an economic and less disruptive option if you’re not fully committed to taking the IP plunge, even though progress will continue to push us in that direction. If you opt for a hybrid solution or aren’t sure what to do always consult a licensed professional to ensure proper application and installation. At Perfect Connections, Inc. our licensed integrators have been providing comprehensive security solutions to businesses throughout northern and central New Jersey since 1992. We can guide you through the process of creating a system that meets your specific needs, from an initial assessment to final installation.

If you live or run a business in Central or Northern New Jersey and would like information on any of the topics discussed above, please call 800-369-3962 or simply CLICK HERE.

Image Credit: Image by Mike Mozart-Flickr-Creative Commons

Moving To The Cloud

Pattys-photos-cloudsWe’ve all seen those puffy white, wondrous, water vapor creations up in the sky, commonly known as clouds. These natural wonders are not the clouds we’ll be investigating here. Instead we’ll be taking a look at what the “cloud” is in relation to business networks and their security infrastructure.

You may be using the cloud in some form already and not even know it. Think about your everyday, do you use an internet based e-mail account, like Gmail? If so, then you use a cloud based service. So what is the “cloud”? Basically, the cloud takes recorded information and stores it on internet servers. Instead of taking up space on your computer or on a physical storage device your information is accessible via the internet. In our physical world of limited space and the desire to streamline as much as possible, the cloud is helping achieve just that. While it is an exciting technology with seemingly endless applications, it is not without flaw. That being said, its benefits seem to outweigh its imperfections; and with non-stop progression in technology it can only improve with time.

Where does the cloud fit within the security system industry? In security applications today, cloud services are becoming a presence in business video surveillance and access control solutions. As security system components migrate towards a more cohesive integration the need for heavy wiring, cables, and hardware is dissipating making the cloud a more viable option for some. As a licensed security systems provider our team at Perfect Connections, Inc. strives to utilize current technologies that make sense within an organizations facility and their budget. We have been providing comprehensive security solutions to businesses throughout northern and central New Jersey for the past 23 years.

How is a cloud-based security network set up and what are the benefits? In many cases a comprehensive security system is comprised of multiple surveillance cameras, some form of physical access control, fire and burglar alarms, and an alarm monitoring service. Surveillance and access control are the areas where the cloud seems to have the most impact these days.

As end-users and integrators move away from analog and switch to IP surveillance systems the video cameras themselves are becoming more advanced. According to Steve Surfaro, an Axis Communications’ Security Industry Liaison, “Many of today’s network video cameras are actually platforms or small computers, complete with solid-state storage and room for onboard security and video content analysis ‘apps,’ as well as enhanced image processing.” Otherwise, in a cloud environment cameras are linked to a company’s network and record footage that is stored on encrypted internet servers. If you think about it, it’s doing the same thing as a traditional surveillance system would as far as recording data and storing it, it’s just the means of conveyance that differs.

When it comes to access control linked to the cloud the possibilities include, but are not limited to, being able to control door, elevator, and card access remotely from a mobile device. Being able to remotely access a system through a secured network in the cloud opens the door to a world of convenience and efficiency. As surveillance and access control continue to be further integrated through wireless and IP systems, managing them with the cloud will likely become commonplace.

The benefits of using the cloud include reduced infrastructure, low system maintenance, low energy consumption, flexibility, scalability, and almost unlimited storage capabilities (Griffin, It helps eliminate the need to use multiple processes to operate a security system, potentially alleviating pressure on a company’s IT department. This could help cut down on unnecessary manpower costs. And the capability for remote software updates would eliminate the hassle on both the end-user and system integrator.

While there are many benefits to utilizing the cloud for video surveillance and access control, it is not a perfect system on its own; and it may take time before it becomes a pervasive technology. Systems that rely solely on the cloud for recording and storage face some obvious risks. For one, there is the potential for network outages.

According to Pierre Racz, president, CEO and founder of Genetec-a company focused on hybrid cloud solutions-it is likely that you will have network outages with the cloud. However, these outages are estimated to be no more than 4 hours per year. Fortunately there are inexpensive solutions to such an issue. To avoid losing any data a local recording device can be set up to operate for more than 4 hours. Implementing redundancies like NAS (Network Attached Storage) drives will also help eliminate any potential losses created by outages.

The initial cost of a cloud based system may also be a deterrent to end-users. However, Racz points out that the maintenance costs for a cloud-based system are far lower than maintaining the extensive hardware that comes with more traditional systems. Business size is also a factor in the cost. Cost will vary depending on how many cameras, how much bandwidth, and other equipment is required. So while a cloud-based system may not initially make sense for a high-rise office building, it may make sense for a singular business or a company with multiple small locations. Cloud access is another major concern for end-users. The question remains, what is stopping someone from hacking into my network? Industry experts believe this concern can be eliminated based on the high level of encryption used to authenticate users.

Even though there might be a few technical hitches with cloud integration in the security industry today, it promises to be more ubiquitous in the near future. The communication gap between end-users, integrators, and industry professionals on the best way to implement this exciting technology is shrinking. Once the dialogue becomes clearer the cloud has potential to become standard protocol. If you are considering making the switch to a cloud-based system or hybrid solution be sure to call on an industry professional. Our team at Perfect Connections, Inc. can guide you through the process from initial assessment to final installation. We have been providing comprehensive security system solutions to businesses throughout northern and central New Jersey since 1992. We’ve been able to adapt our services based on the ever changing technological climate, implementing what is best and makes sense for our clients.

If you live or run a business in Central or Northern New Jersey and would like information on any of the topics discussed above, please call 800-369-3962 or simply CLICK HERE.

Image Credit: Image by Pattys-photos-Flickr-Creative Commons